Providing internet for all in Myanmar—in record time

Mobile connectivity and the many opportunities that come with it were unknown to larger population of Myanmar until 2014. In just 32 months, close to 90% of the South East Asian nation’s population and more than 94% of townships in whole or in part are covered by Telenor Myanmar’s network. Telenor Myanmar’s Chief Marketing Officer, Joslin Myrthong, explains how a non-discriminatory market approach and multi-stakeholder collaboration helped the company build the country’s largest and fastest growing network.

“The journey to build a world-class mobile network in Myanmar started with 68 sites only, perhaps the smallest GSM launch in history, in Mandalay in September 2014. The reception from the people of Mandalay was fantastic and we quickly realized that expansion needed to happen even faster than we had planned for to satisfy the huge demand”, said Joslin.

A month later, the network was expanded to the country’s business capital Yangon and from there steadily enlarged to other states and regions, including the rural areas.

“We made all reasonable efforts to expand the coverage by engaging with all relevant stakeholders, including the ethnic groups, in order to deploy our network in a safe and secure manner. From day one, we have been focused on delivering internet for all, without any discrimination as to who you are or where you live”, explained Joslin.

As part of this approach, Telenor Myanmar has ensured that anyone can register to use mobile services by submitting admissible IDs via multiple online and physical registration channels.

To date, Telenor Myanmar’s network comprises of more than 7,500 sites in all states and regions, and union territory in Myanmar, making it one of the quickest network roll-outs in history, as per GSMA.

“Our network is 100% 3G and 2G and the fastest growing data network in the country today. The ambition is to build more than 9,000 sites overall in the coming years to deliver services to customers in all parts of the country”, said Joslin.

In 2016, Telenor Myanmar also rolled out 4G services and to date, its 4G network has reached 20 major cities throughout Myanmar, including places such as Hpa-an, Myeik and Sittwe. About 64% of Telenor customers today are active data users, comparable to developed markets like Thailand and Malaysia.

“The number of customers going straight for internet connectivity has really startled us, and there is really no difference today in how people of Myanmar use their smartphone versus more developed markets across Asia”, said Joslin.

Telenor Myanmar is serving close to 19 million customers today through 200 distributors and more than 90,000 points-of-sale. This, in turn, creates ample opportunities for employment. A global study (the Global Impact Report) conducted by KPMG estimates that in 2015 alone Telenor Myanmar helped create 110,000 direct and indirect jobs through its supply chain across Myanmar. To date, the company directly employs close to 700 employees, of which 93% are Myanmar nationals.

“Myanmar is a dynamic and rapidly-growing, ‘mobile first’ market, and the telecommunications sector has seen unprecedented growth in a market that went from unconnected to fully connected and from low digital adoption to the fastest growing digital nation in this region, in a span of a few short years. We are proud to have played a leading role in driving this change, and remain committed to ensuring that the sector continues to mature and grow, and most importantly that people in all parts of the country continue to benefit from the socio-economic benefits that mobile and digital access will bring to them”, concluded Joslin.